Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 11 - Lest we forget
Log 11 - Lest we forget

Bryce Galloway


Following on from my debut ‘round up’, Ed. asked that this issue’s make up for my lack of info on Wellington's galleries. Ed. also wanted info on artist-run spaces and [to use the lingo of the great Peter McLeavey] "what’s happening with the young people?" I did sight some young people, today even: High School students high-tailing it out of an art gallery in scratchy bewilderment. The Adam Art Gallery in fact. On show, The Numbers Game and ‘performances on video’ by Zhang Huan. The work of Zhang Huan scared the hell out of them, but more on him later.

Back to the dealer spieler. The Wellington dealer gallery top three for the April through June quarter is as follows:

#1- Hamish McKay Gallery

With a monopoly on Australasia’s finest hip-young-things, Hamish’s number one position comes as no surprise. This quarter saw shows by Denise Kum, Mikala Dwyer, Gavin Hipkins, Tony de Lautour and Marie Shannon. Gavin Hipkins astonished by moving the wallets of some collectors with that poor-cousin of a medium known as photography. My personal Hipkins favourite: beautifully scary photographs of voluminous hooded raincoats, no people inside. Hamish gets marks off, however, for framing and displaying some sub-standard working photos by Denise Kum, currently in post-grad studies on the other side of planet London. And shame on Tony de Lautour for aping Séraphine Pick aping Shane Cotton aping Big Bill Hammond. This children-of-Hammond thing is turning all queer and top-heavy.

#2 - Peter McLeavey Gallery

Loses karmic points for having the gilded fortune of selling and reselling the same paintings over and over and through the ages. Peter McLeavey Gallery is shop-window to New Zealand’s undisputed champions of Rock ‘n’ Roll (read art). Peter's shows stick around for the longer period so they’re easier to catch. This quarter: John Reynolds, Laurence Aberhart and a group show with a pedigree that would give you gout. The Peter McLeavey Gallery, so esteemed that the gallery stair became subject of one artist’s work, an artist showing at the New Work Studio - situated, ironically, further up the same staircase.

#3 - Janne Land Gallery

The waters get murky beyond the top two but let’s give it a go. This quarter at Janne Land: Michael Browne, Dick Frizzell, Henry Symonds, Peter Cleverley, Richard McWhannell and a group show entitled Three Young Artists. Two of the three are still in diapers, but not Heather Straka. Her paintings of porcelain urinals venerated the urinal's abject surface to such heights that I wanted to lick the paintings. Great play between the polarities of abject & venerable, representational & minimal. Dick Frizzell turned from landscape to deliver some painterly sloganistic truisms (probably ’cause they take less time). I hate to say it, Dick being the chump he is, but I liked them a lot. I laughed even. He’s a dab hand with the shonky sign writing.

News on artist-run spaces: Nuet Gallery is joined by a second only artist-run space known as Enjoy. The gallery is situated upstairs at 174 Cuba Street and is open 10am -5pm Wednesday to Sunday. Enjoy is run by two Ilam sculpture graduates Ciaran Begley and Rosalind Cameron, phone 04 384 2827. The debut series of exhibitions is Viewfinder - five shows which aim to "revolve around the presence of the five (large) windows in the Enjoy gallery". The gallery hopes to create a platform for the experimental and site-specific works of emerging artists. Enjoy sees a gap in Wellington’s almost solely dealer gallery infrastructure, a gap they hope to fill. First show up was the work of the gallery’s own curatorial team. An engagingly minimal approach, taking out the glass in the windows and inviting in the weather. The white walls and polished gallery floor become endearingly compromised by the undoing of this final spacial protection.

Nuet has been a bit of an enigma to me and many others no doubt. When the hell is it open? Well, I’ve got the word from the man behind this solo flight (Jason Secto) that he’s home and open for business weekdays from 3pm till 10pm, or 12pm, or 1am even. It’s a beacon of culture for the drunks and crazies he says, leaving the light on to keep the monsters at bay. A beautiful thing for sure. I don't think Jason does with the mailing list and all that, so call him for exhibition info on 04 389 6426.

The Adam Art Gallery continues to be a vibrant component of Wellington’s art scene. May through June saw an intriguing amalgam of shows - Gavin Hipkins and Ann Shelton showing alongside Looking for the Local: Architecture and the New Zealand Modern, curated by Justine Clark and Paul Walker. On entering the gallery, one was lured into the succulent world of Ann Shelton’s faux modernism with Abigail’s Party - a blaze of orange interiors that look for all the world like our understanding of historical modernism. They prove to be elaborate fakes constructed by the artist in her own home. Potential annoyance at the works whimsy is later replaced by an appreciation of the dialogue that opens up, a dialogue between Abigail’s Party and the New Zealand Modern, on display as one descends the gallery's stairwell. The New Zealand Modern elaborates on this highjacking of style without substance, Modernism’s renaissance minus social context and meaning. Down in the bowels of the Adam, Gavin Hipkins surveys examples of New Brutalism within NZ university architecture. The work comes on like the discovery of a lost archive as the architecture’s strident forms bleed through over/under exposed printing. The work’s conversely organic qualities are consolidated by ‘poor’ photographic fixing so that the prints discolour and change, at odds with archival practice.

Currently at the Adam is group show The Numbers Game - creative connections between art and mathematics. I never did like mathematics at school - preferred art. The abstract world of maths seemed totally at odds with my particular reality. And here, some sicko has curated a collision between my personal bastion of intuition and its old nemesis. I did however get some kind of perverse enjoyment out of the exhibition’s play on my own paranoias. Kind of like watching the movie Pi. Simon Morris alleviated some of the tension with the intrinsic humour of his compositions of chance, a mathematical element I do understand, I think.

In a side wing is Zhang Huan’s (China) ‘performances on video’ - the show that freaked those young people. Sometimes it’s a little hard to make the connection with Zhang’s intended social commentaries, but there is no denying the work’s arcane voice. One Wellington artist confided in me that Zhang’s work made most local practice seem overly cool, detached, even comatose. Zhang’s brutal endurance performances are best compared to Buddhist monks’ self-immolation as protest during the Vietnam War.

The Michael Hirchsfield Gallery seems to be rapidly mutating into a gallery known as 360. Unchanged is the gallery’s mandate to solely represent the work of Wellington artists. This time, Dame Janet Paul, Sean Kerr and more recently Seam - the living art of Wellington fashion. A stronger selection of shows than last quarter and with diversity in the extreme.

Finally to the City Gallery where it’s personal favourite Bill Hammond and the retrospective 23 Big Pictures. Let’s hope his myriad young protégés don’t retroactively poison the Hammond style, making it suddenly seem like style alone. It’s curious that the work of Bill Hammond is so celebrated by the institutional art scene. His cartoon dystopias wouldn’t look out of place in Juxtapose magazine or any other ‘outsider art’ journal. Just goes to show how the language of the less rarefied is sometimes what’s needed when art stares at its own navel too long.


Bryce Galloway. Born Hamilton 1966. "Bryce is a quiet student, doesn't contribute much to class discussion. Has the ability to do much better."



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room